Intel fights back against iOS with free tools for HTML5 cross-platform mobile development

Today at its Software Conference in Paris Intel presented its HTML5 development tools.

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There are several components, starting with the XDK, a cross-platform development kit based on HTML5, CSS and JavaScript designed to be packaged as mobile apps using Cordova, the open source variant of PhoneGap.

There is an intriguing comment here:

The XDK is fully compatible with the PhoneGap HTML5 cross platform development project, providing many features that are missing from the open source project.

PhoneGap is Adobe’s commercial variant of Cordova. It looks as if Intel is doing its own implementation of features which are in PhoneGap but not Cordova, which might not please Adobe. Apparently code that Intel adds will be fed back into Cordova in due course.

Intel has its own JavaScript app framework, formerly called jqMobi and now called Intel’s App Framework. This is an open source framework hosted on Github.

There are also developer tools which run as an extension to Google Chrome, and a cloud-based build service which targets the following platforms:

  • Apple App Store
  • Google Play
  • Nook Store
  • Amazon Appstore for Android
  • Windows 8 Store
  • Windows Phone 8

And web applications:

  • Facebook
  • Intel AppUp
  • Chrome Store
  • Self-hosted

The build service lets you compile and deploy for these platforms without requiring a local install of the various mobile SDKs. It is free and according to Intel’s Thomas Zipplies there are no plans to charge in future. The build service is Intel’s own, and not related to Adobe’s PhoneGap Build, other than the fact that both share common source in Cordova. This also is unlikely to please Adobe.

You can start a new app in the browser, using a wizard.

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Intel also has an iOS to HTML5 porting tool in beta, called the App Porter Tool. The aim is to convert Objective C to JavaScript automatically, and while the tool will not convert all the code successfully it should be able to port most of it, reducing the overall porting effort.

Given that the XDK supports Windows 8 modern apps and Windows Phone 8, this is also a route to porting from iOS to those platforms.

Why is Intel doing this, especially on a non-commercial basis? According to Zipplies, it is a reaction to “walled garden” development platforms, which while not specified must include Apple iOS and to some extent Google Android.

Note that both iOS and almost all Android devices run on ARM, so another way of looking at this is that Intel would rather have developers work on cross-platform apps than have them develop exclusively for ARM devices.

Zipplies also says that Intel can optimise the libraries in the XDK to improve performance on its processors.

You can access the HTML5 development tools here.

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3 comments to Intel fights back against iOS with free tools for HTML5 cross-platform mobile development

  • It’s kind of ironic that as a designer/developer who’s invested a lot of time in the Microsoft stack over the last 5-7 years, that this open, anti walled garden approach pleases me greatly.

    As someone (i.e. a Windows Phone owner/developer) who’s tired of every new app/platform being promoted/available through only Android/iOS channels, and users who aren’t on those devices being presented with afterthought web apps – it seems way past due that HTML5 began to be the first port of call for those wishing to develop and deliver truly innovative experiences.

  • Phil

    While this looks like interesting stuff, Intel’s (and Adobe’s) challenge is twofold:

    (1) Convincing developers who are currently using Objective C, Java and C# to do mobile development that Javascript is a suitable replacement.

    (2) Convincing developers who are currently creating app UIs using native controls (UIKit, etc.) that a JS UI framework is a suitable replacement.

  • acturbo

    I used the version of the AppFramework (aka jqMobi) prior to 2.0 in a mobile web project and it was fantastic. I reviewed a dozen or so offerings before settling on the AppFramework, including jQuery Mobile and nothing was as easy to learn, use and customize. I highly recommend that people have a closer look at the library for themselves.